Driven throughout her career by the belief that live concert music has the power to transform people’s lives, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) President Deborah F. Rutter is considered one of the leading arts administrators in the nation. Known for emphasizing collaboration, innovation and community engagement, since she joined the CSOA as president in August 2003 her dynamic influence has helped to further enhance the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s reputation as one of the world’s most highly acclaimed orchestras.
As CSOA president, Rutter oversees the operations of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Center Presents, the Institute for Learning, Access and Training (including the Civic Orchestra of Chicago) and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. The management of the magnificent Symphony Center facility also is under her direction.
The appointment of the legendary conductor Maestro Riccardo Muti as the Orchestra’s 10th music director and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma as the first Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant are two of the key highlights demonstrative of Rutter’s leadership. In collaboration, they have ushered in a new era of exceptional artistry and unprecedented musical outreach by the CSOA.
Working with the Orchestra’s Board of Trustees, Rutter helped reinvigorate educational programming in 2008 by establishing the Institute for Learning, Access and Training, which engages more than 200,000 people (with primary emphasis on ages 3 to 30) across the broadest possible socioeconomic and ethnic spectrum each year. In 2011, the Institute launched its Citizen Musician initiative, which seeks to sustain and expand the role of music making in civic and cultural life. Such initiatives are at the core of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association’s commitment to creating and sustaining connections to music for individuals and communities throughout Chicagoland and around the globe.
Also under Rutter’s leadership, the CSOA has been an innovator in programming, adding concert series such as Beyond the Score, Afterwork Masterworks, MusicNOW and CSO at the Movies; mounting citywide musical celebrations, such as such as 2007’s Silk Road Chicago and 2012’s Keys to the City Piano Festival; resuming the Orchestra’s weekly syndicated radio broadcasts on WFMT-FM; and establishing its own recording label, CSO Resound.
Such creative thinking has been central to Rutter’s goal of attracting new audiences while also making the CSO a dynamic musical enterprise that is deeply embedded in both the Chicago and worldwide community—thus securing its future for years to come.
On the business side, Rutter has led a CSOA that has thrived during challenging times for symphony orchestras. Ticket and contributed revenues are at an all-time high, the endowment has increased by $70 million and annual fund contributions have doubled.
Prior to joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Rutter was executive director of the Seattle Symphony, a position she held from November 1992 until 2003. Despite having a deficit when she joined, when Rutter departed for the CSOA, the Seattle Symphony had nearly tripled its annual budget to $25 million, had no accumulated deficit and the endowment had grown six-fold to $24 million. During her tenure in Seattle, a new facility, Benaroya Hall, with two concert venues and an educational facility called Soundbridge, were built and are thriving today. Under her watch, programming grew exponentially including city-wide musical festivals and other community engagement activities. From 1986 to 1992, she served as executive director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and prior to that she was the orchestra manager of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Rutter is involved in a number of national and local cultural organizations and currently is a member of the board of Arts Alliance Illinois, the League of American Orchestras, the Grant Park Conservancy, the Solti Foundation, After School Matters and the Cultural Advisory Council for the City of Chicago. She is a member of the Commercial Club of Chicago, the Chicago Network, and the Economic Club of Chicago; she also is a visiting committee member for the University of Chicago Department of Music. In 2012, she was named to Chicago magazine’s list of 100 Most Powerful Chicagoans.
Rutter previously served as a board member and president of the Washington State Arts Alliance Board of Directors, the Association of California Symphony Orchestras, the prestigious Curtis Institute Board of Overseers, and currently chairs the Policy Committee for the League of American Orchestras.
Rutter is a graduate of Stanford University and holds an MBA from the University of Southern California. She was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in the Los Angeles area. She studied piano and violin from an early age, and she played violin with orchestras throughout her education.